Review: The Big Clock

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The Big Clock is an amazing noir story with all the best features of noir.  We have a femme fatale, we have a protagonist in a situation way over his head and has to out smart the enemy to get out of danger, we have adultery, murder, a rich and powerful antagonist and a claustrophobic setting that even as a viewer we want to get out of.

The film is based on a book by the same name written by Kenneth Fearing.  There have been two remakes of this film, or two more movies based on this book, depending on how you look at it.  Police Python 357 is a film made in 1976, I have not seen this one.  The other one is No Way Out starring Kevin Costner and Sean Young, I’ve seen this movie but it was so many years ago I would like to re-watch it before I make any comments about it.

John Farrow directed this, he had a storied career as a director with over 49 credits to his name.  Ray Milland plays our hero and was in many film noir movies as well as westerns and horror films.  We will look at more if his films in the future.  He is amazing in this film as our everyday man who hates his job, but is a very successful author and journalist.  He decides he is going to quit his job for two reasons, he is married and wants to go on his honeymoon and his boss has pushed him to his limit. The boss is played by the great Charles Laughton and our hero’s wife is played by Maureen O’Sullivan.  He goes out for a drink to celebrate his new freedom and runs into a beautiful blonde played by Rita Johnson. She makes him miss his meeting time with his wife, and they make the best of it by having a grand old-time.  They go back to her place and things are implied.  We soon find out our mystery blonde is dead.  His old boss and the magazine he used to write for wants him back for one last assignment, find the man who was with the blonde last night!?!?!  This has an amazing set up and the story does not disappoint.  As the trap tightens around our hero the tension grows.

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Harry Morgan, that went on to fame many years later on T.V.’s Dragnet and M*A*S*H, plays an interesting role as the silent henchman.  We also see the Bride of Frankenstein herself, Elsa Lanchester as an eccentric artist.

Favorite tidbit:  Kenneth Fearing wrote this book as revenge on publisher Henry Luce and his “Time” magazine, where Fearing worked for many years for financial reasons. The character Earl Janoth played by Laughton is based on Luce.

This is an amazing movie and should be watched by any noir fan or classic film fan in general.

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Re-Watching a New Classic: Out of Sight

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Out of Sight is best known for the relationship between George Clooney’s Jack Foley and Jennifer Lopez’s Karen Sisco, but it is so much more than that.  I haven’t seen this since it came out in 1998 and just re-watched it.  I remember that Steven Soderbergh directed this Elmore Leonard story.  I didn’t realize this was Soderbergh’s first big budget film, not a bad first try, Though this was a box office flop for the studio. This is also one of my favorite Leonard adoptions, it’s funny but it’s the classic one liners and a few characters that don’t quite fit into society that make it funny, not trying to make it a comedy, that happens way to much with Leonard’s work.  Leonard is a crime storyteller first, funny second.  What I forgot about this film is the rest of the cast is brilliant! Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Catherine Keener, Dennis Farina,Steve Zahn, Albert Brooks, Nancy Allen and Luis Guzmán!

This movie’s most famous scene happens towards the beginning of the film and sets in motion what is to come.  That scene happens after Foley out smarts the prison guards and escapes prison.  When he is getting picked up by his buddy…Buddy, played by Rhames, FBI Agent Sisco is in the parking lot on an unrelated mater.  They steal her car and throw her in the trunk with Foley for the escape.  Their conversation about movies, which includes the classics Bonnie and Clyde, Network, and Three Days of the Condor, and life in general make for an intimate conversation that changes both of their lives.  We find from this scene that there is chemistry between our two leads, and both have a mutual attraction.  Both know this might just be their downfall.

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This gives a different spin on our plot.  Foley can’t keep away from Sisco even though he knows she will eventually put him back in jail and Sisco can’t stay away from Foley, even though she knows she should put him back in jail.  This is also unique because Lopez is not only our femme fatale, but also our hero for good. We have noir’s favorite sport-boxing, bank robbers, kidnappers, magician assistants, ex-cops, F.B.I., Detroit detectives, and a surprise appearance by none other than Samuel L. Jackson.

Enjoy this Leonard romp in the way a Leonard romp should be done.

Favorite tidbit:  Michael Keaton reprises his role as Ray Nicolette in a cameo, Keaton played Nicolette in Jackie Brown(another of my favorite Leonard adoptions) as well.

Review: In Cold Blood

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In Cold Blood is based on the book by Truman Capote, that is based on the true story of the murder of the Clutter family by Perry Smith and “Dick” Hickock.  Smith is played by Robert Blake, later known for his role as Baretta on the T.V. show by the same name, and maybe more so for being accused for the murder of his second wife.  Hickock is played by Scott Wilson, who I know from The Walking Dead and look forward to watching him on the series Bosch.  I did not recognize him at all, as his older bearded self doesn’t look much like he did in his youth, and his voice isn’t as distinctive yet either.  The two actors looked remarkably like the real life killers that they play.

John Forsythe plays our lead detective on the case, Alvin Dewey.  Forsythe already had a pretty decent T.V. career going when he made this movie, but of course he would go on to great heights as the voice of Charlie on Charlie’s Angels and the prime-time soup Dynasty.

Though this is not a classic film-noir, I guess it is to new for that, it was made in 1967.  Richard Brook wrote this for the screen and directed it.  He used black and white and many shadows, it looks like any good noir made in the 1950’s to me.  It is a neo-noir in date alone in my opinion.  Brooks, kept this as close to the book as possible and as accurate as possible, using some of the same jurors and a lot of the locals for extras.  As well as going to the actual locations to film as many scenes as possible

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The story starts with Perry Smith getting off the bus in Kansas to meet his friend Dick Hickock.  Hickock has a plan for some big money, no witnesses and an escape to Mexico.  The plan doesn’t seem to go well and our duo is on the run, broke and not sure what to do.

The movies Capote and Infamous are both very good movies about Truman Capote and him writing the book “In Cold Blood.”  I have never read the book, but it is one on my long list of “Want to Read.”  This movie makes me want to move it up the list a bit.

Favorite Tidbit:  The character Perry Smith mentions the movie “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” twice, some thought this was written into the script because Smith was played by Robert Blake.  Blake had an uncredited role in the film as a child.  The real reason Smith mentions the movie in the film is because it was the real Perry Smith’s favorite film and he often referred to it.

This movie is for everybody that likes good film.  If you are a noir fan it is a must watch.  Fans of true crime stories should also love it.

Review: Son of a Gun

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Son of a Gun is a neo-noir film from Australia, this is the second film from Australia I seen this week.  This films biggest star is Ewan McGregor, but our main character is played by Brenton Thwaites who has already stared in a few big Hollywood movies and looks to have more to come.  He will be a name to watch in the future.  Our femme fatale is played by Alicia Vikander who is also an up and comer with roles in the impressive looking Ex Machina and big Hollywood movie Man from U.N.C.L.E..  Matt Nable plays a small but memorable role as one of the gang of thieves.

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Son of a Gun starts out with Thwaites getting thrown in prison.  He is taken under the wing of McGregor who saves him from other baddies.  Thwaites gets out of prison but soon finds he needs to pay back McGregor for his kindness.  A prison escape is the first plan and then a robbery spree ensues.  Thwaites is in over his head, like any good protagonist in a good noir story.  This story has prison violence, a prison escape, gangsters, double crosses, triple crosses, torture, murder, a heist, car chases, cheap hotels and femme fatales. What more do you want?

Though this isn’t an original story by any means, more of a mishmash of things we’ve already seen put together to make an entertaining film.  It’s worth watching if you’re looking for something new to see.

Favorite Tidbit:  Ewan McGregor’s character is based on real life bank robber Brenden Abbott known as the Post Card Bandit.  Abbott has escaped prison 2 times and is currently serving a 23 year sentence.

Book Review: Revenge is a Redhead by Phil Beloin Jr

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I recently read a blog that was talking about how pulp literature has become back in favor.  This is good news for noir fans!  Pulp was popular with the working man, because it was short, cheap and talked to the downtrodden.  We had magazines like Black Mask and The Strand and they published their issues on cheap pulp paper, hence the name.  The literary world used slick glossy paper for there publications causing them to be to expensive for some.  Today we have the internet, and especially E-readers.  This makes it easy for independent publications to put out pulp like stories on the cheap.  I also read somewhere that noir stories don’t sell, people want happy ending and likable characters(I guess nobody told Gillian Flynn that?).  Anyway some noir authors had no outlet to get there work out to the public, but now thanks to small independent publishers and E-readers we can get great stories that may never of had a home 10 years ago.

One of these publishers was kind enough to send me 6 books to read and see what I thought.  All Due Respect is a small publisher specializing in pulp and noir books and I thank them for letting me check out there library of work.  Of course I grabbed the slimmest volume first to read.

That book is Phil Beloin Jr’s Revenge is a Redhead and it is only 90 pages, but I could not put it down and read it in one night.  We have two main characters in this short but sweet read.  We have a homeless man with 70 cents in his pocket and a gorgeous femme fatale hooker that moonlights as a stripper when they need somebody to fill in.

Our protagonist is named Rich, but he is far from rich.  We find him in a strip club enjoying the scenery and find out he is flat broke.  He was just kicked out of his father’s house and took off in his beat up Olds and plans on going until the fuel runs out.  He changes his mind and stops at the club instead.  He spends what little money he has on a beautiful redhead stripper named Cherry.  Rich leaves the club and goes to the nearest homeless shelter for a meal and a cot.  Soon our hero wakes up in an unusual situation and it just keeps getting worse from there.  This short book is packed with great dialog and some amazing character development.

This book is pure pulp with a shocking scene on every other page.  Some might find this book a bit offensive…so if your easily offended don’t read it.  If your not…buy this for a quick read of pure entertainment.  I look forward to reading the rest of the books from All Due Respect and look forward to what else they publish in the future.

Here is a link so you can see what else they offer and check back here for more reviews in the near future.

http://allduerespectbooks.com/

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Gangsters in Movies from Jorge Luengo Ruiz

I just found this and thought it was pretty cool.  After seeing this, can you name any great actors that have not played a gangster?

AS FAR BACK AS I CAN REMEMBER, I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A GANGSTER.

Movies than appear:

Little Caesar (Mervyn LeRoy, 1931)
The Public Enemy (William A. Wellman, 1931)
Scarface (Howard Hawks, 1932)
Angels With Dirty Faces (Michael Curtiz, 1938)
On the Waterfront ( Elia Kazan, 1954)
Some Like it Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
Bonnie & Cylde (Arthur Penn, 1967)
Get Carter (Mike Hodges, 1971)
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)
Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
The Godfather II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
The Long Good Friday (John Mackenzie, 1980)
Scarface (Brian de Palma, 1983)
City Heat (Richard Benjamin, 1984)
Cotton Club (Francis Ford Coppola, 1984)
Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)
The Untouchables (Brian de Palma, 1987)
Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty, 1990)
The Godfather III (Francis Ford Coppola, 1990)
Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
King of New York (Abel Ferrera, 1990)
Miller’s Crossing (Joel Coen, 1990)
State of Grace (Phil Joanou, 1990)
Bugsy (Barry Levinson, 1991)
Resevoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
A Bronx Tale (Robert de Niro, 1993)
Carlito’s Way (Brian de Palma, 1993)
True Romance (Tony Scott, 1993)
Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995)
The Funeral (Abel Ferrara, 1996)
Donnie Brasco (Mike Newell, 1997)
Hoodlum (Bill Duke, 1997)
Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997)
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998)
Analyze This (Harold Ramis, 1999)
Snatch (Guy Ritchie, 2000)
Road to Perdition (Sam Mendes, 2002)
Una Historia de Violencia (David Cronenberg, 2005)
The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
American Gangster (Ridley Scott, 2007)
Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
Public Enemies (Michael Mann, 2009)
Drive (Nicholas Winding Refn, 2011)
Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik, 2012)
Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)
Gangster Squad (Ruben Fleischer, 2013)
The Family (Luc Besson, 2013)
The Drop (Michael R. Roskam, 2014)